Ever Wondered What a Fossil-Fuel-Free House Could Look Like?
Slice of MIT
To some, “high end” and “prefab” may sound mutually exclusive, but Meelena (Oleksiuk) Turkel MArch ’08 and Joel Turkel MArch ’99 are proving that the two elements make an excellent pair. The husband-and-wife duo started Turkel Design in 2008 and have since created more than 100 systems-built homes around the world, finally building one for their family in 2019.
“One of the reasons that we started Turkel Design was that we wanted to promote a different type of building, one that was more appropriate for our modern way of living,” says Meelena. “One that was more environmentally conscious.”
Prefabrication is surprisingly suited to such homes. What prefab enables, says Joel, is “the majority of the componentry of a building is created in a factory setting, then shipped to the site and erected there with a small crane. It allows us to put together a highly flexible building, virtually anywhere, in a relatively short period of time with a high degree of specificity, control, and precision.” It also allows for excess material to be used for other projects, he adds, and cuts down on noise and disruption surrounding building sites.
When Meelena and Joel Turkel designed their own home, they used it as a “living lab” in which to try techniques they weren’t ready to test out on their clients. The house is made entirely from engineered wood, including wood byproducts that would otherwise go to waste. There are multiple uses for every room, to optimize the use of the space. And it is a “zero threshold” home (meaning there are no stairs or other hard-to-navigate barriers or transitions), designed for aging in place.
The house was built without the use of, and will never need, fossil fuels. In addition to being a completely fossil-fuel-free site, the home operates at net-zero energy, thanks to the solar panels on its roof. “Everything on the property is being fueled by electricity generated onsite," says Joel, "including the pool and the hot tub.”
Watch the video to see their home and learn more about prefab living.